Right to Water

Worldwide, over 1.1 billion individuals lack access to an affordable supply of clean water for their basic needs. Over 2.4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation. Many communities living in slums and low-income neighbourhoods in urban and rural areas are charged unaffordable prices for drinking water, spend several hours daily collecting water or have no alternative but to use contaminated water from rivers or unprotected wells. Clean sanitation facilities are frequently unavailable, inaccessible or insecure. Women and children bear the brunt of this neglect.

Development-related evictions and relocations – a constant threat for slum-dwellers – can significantly reduce the access of the affected people to water and sanitation. The imposition of cost recovery for water services has slowed down extension of access and has led in some situations to mass disconnections. In several countries, well-intentioned efforts to resolve the problem have failed due to entrenched traditions of top-down management, discrimination and corruption. Such efforts will continue to fail until marginalised communities have the opportunity and capacity to genuinely participate in decision-making and to hold governments fully accountable.

The laws and policies of many countries provide scant protection for marginalised groups and often lack enforcement mechanisms. Water services can be disconnected without notice and without provision of an alternative water supply despite the dire threats to life and health. Water prices can be arbitrarily increased even where water costs constitute the bulk of an individual or family budget. There are an insufficient number of monitoring bodies to ensure the equitable implementation of water policies and provide redress for violations.

Many of the people denied such basic necessities live in countries with sufficient water supplies and finances or where the bulk of public subsidies do not primarily benefit the poorest members of society. Thus, the argument of scant resources cannot explain away these gross inadequacies. Rather, it is clear that a combination of discrimination, the lack of political will, the exclusion of communities, and inadequate legal structures result in such conditions. Most countries lack a proper system of monitoring and accountability to ensure the equitable implementation of water policies and provide redress for violations.

The international community has affirmed the human right to water in a number of international treaties, declarations and other documents. Most notably, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted in November 2002 a General Comment on the Right to Water setting out international standards and obligations relating to the right to water.

Source: COHRE

Water and sanitation challenges in Africa

Although the Johannesburg summit in 2002 set a target of reducing by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015, more than 300 million Africans still lack access to safe drinking water and 14 countries on the continent suffer from water scarcity. Out of 55 countries in the world with domestic water use below 50 litres per person per day (the minimum requirement set by the World Health Organization; the minimum requirement set by most African countries is 20 litres per person per day), 35 are in Africa. Almost half of all Africans suffer from one of six main water-related diseases.

To make progress in the water sector as in other sectors, Sub-Saharan Africa needs both institutional development and investment finance. To achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in water supply and sanitation, the number of people served must more than double, from 350 million in 2000 to 720 million in 2015. Even then, some 200 million would remain un-served. The expected annual cost of meeting the MDG target for water is between US$1.7 and 2.1 billion, and just as much is likely to be needed for sanitation. Most countries are undertaking WSS sector reforms, and some have achieved good progress in expanding access to services and improving operating performance.

Average per capita water availability in the region is about 5,300 cubic meters – moderate by world standards, but much of the region is arid with highly variable rainfall. Due to lack of well managed water-storage infrastructure, water-related services irrigation, water supply, and hydropower are much less prevalent than in other parts of the world. For example, only 3.6 percent of the region’s total cropland is irrigated. Sub Saharan Africa has an extraordinary density of international river basins; successful regional cooperation to develop and manage infrastructure and water flows in these basins promises large benefits.

Weak governance is a key contributory factor to poor resource management and service delivery. While it is growing, the role and space for CSO and citizens engagement in ensuring appropriate service delivery varies from country to country and region to region. CSOs and citizens are usually unable to effectively demand accountability due to lack of information and know-how on engagement procedures and opportunities. So while the continent seeks additional investment for development, investment is also required to strengthen the voice and role of the CSOs and citizens.

Source ANEW strategic plan

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